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An Orff Inspired Music Curriculum
for a New Zealand Primary School

"It is difficult to teach rhythm.  One can only release it.  Rhythm is no abstract concept, it is life itself.  Rhythm is active and produces effects, it is the unifying power of language, music, and movement" 

Carl Orff, 1976

Patupaiarehe by Emily Cater

The Orff approach to music and movement education, now used in over forty countries around the world, began in Germany in the 1920s with the work of Carl Orff and Gunild Keetman.  Their educational ideas were driven by a belief that rhythm is a human quality that underpins language, music and movement (Orff, 1976).  This belief led to an educational approach to music and movement education that is rooted in actively exploring rhythm.  They described their approach as ‘elemental’, reflecting their belief that every person has an innate ability to express themselves in music and movement and that these expressions are instinctively integrated (Orff, 1976).  By using non-technical tuned and untuned percussion instruments, Orff and Keetman developed a way to support successful music-making by all.  Using the Orff approach all children, no matter what their ability, are enabled to play expressively and creatively.


Elemental experience, as Orff intended, comes from stimulating and nurturing a child’s natural expressive and creative musical behaviour alongside their ability to reflect and analyse.  This exploration includes guided listening, thinking and application of ideas (Frazee, 2003; Goodkin, 2001; Regner, 2011).  Children are exposed to artistic models with open-ended opportunities to explore and to pay deep attention to the details that make the whole, thus nurturing aesthetic vision.  Barbara Haselbach (2013) identifies three types of artistry:

  1. experiencing artistry in one’s own artistic activity

  2. the process of becoming aware of artistic works

  3. the process of creative re-creation and interpretation

These three aspects of artistic activity weave opportunities for children to respond with feelings and imagination in natural and creative ways and to discover and apply the details of form, content, and order for themselves through thoughtful musical inquiry.  The Orff classroom has ‘an atmosphere of sound and feeling that is creative at its core.’ (Frazee, 2013, 17).  Doug Goodkin describes the key qualities that an Orff teacher aspires to as being: contagious enthusiasm, relentless curiosity, unbridled imagination, grateful surprise, mirthful play, restless dissatisfaction, and cultivated love (Goodkin, 2009). 


Kete Aronui

In one of the Māori mythology stories, Tāne journeys through 12 heavens to retrieve three baskets of knowledge for the benefit of humankind.  Te Kete Aronui is one of these three baskets of knowledge and is defined by the Māori dictionary as the basket of: "aroha (love), peace and the arts and crafts which benefit the Earth and all living things [...] This basket relates to knowledge acquired through careful observation of the environment. It is also the basket of ritual, literature, and philosophy and is sometimes regarded as the basket of the humanities."

The name 'Kete Aronui Orff' acknowledges the rich imagery provided in the concept of Te Kete Aronui as defined here and the potential for Te Ao Māori to enrich learning through the Orff approach in our New Zealand school context.

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Rata's Waka by Emily Cater

New Zealand Kowhai Flower by Emily Cater

Ruru - Morepork by Emily Cater

Taniwha by Emily Cater

Tūī - Parson Bird by Emily Cater

Tuna  - New Zealand's Longfin Eel by Emily Cater

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